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Insurrection Investigation; Record COVID Cases; Winter Storms; Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 15:00   ET



ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: A lot of people considered this his last chance.

And after what transpired on Sunday, it'd be hard to believe another team would give him another chance.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, but, Victor, I mean, as you pointed out, we have become more sophisticated about knowing mental health problems as well in sports figures, so maybe.


I mean, listen, we -- mental health and mental illness, emotional challenges present in different ways. And we don't know yet why specifically he walked off the field. So I'm not of any expertise to say exactly why I did.

But leave some space for the possibility that this is an extension of the conversation we had about Naomi Osaka when she quit the French Open, when Simone Biles decided that she couldn't move forward with a few of the events at the Summer Olympics. We will find out eventually, but leave some space for that possibility. As Tom Brady says, he's going through some things.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Andy Scholes, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right, guys.

BLACKWELL: Top of a brand-new hour. It is good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CAMEROTA: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

The U.S. begins 2022 with a winter blizzard and a viral blizzard. More than 20 million Americans are under weather alerts from the Southeast to New England. This is the region's first major snowstorm of the season.

In the meantime, the Omicron variant has driven the average new infections to a record-breaking 404,000 a day.

BLACKWELL: Hospitalizations are rising at a slower rate.

But we are now learning that there are 100,000 people in the U.S. in hospitals with COVID. Now, this double hit has led to major disruptions in schools and businesses and travel. One major airport has now ordered a ground stop because of the severe weather. And that is on top of the 17,000-plus flights that have been canceled since Christmas Eve from staff sick-outs because of COVID.

We begin the hour with CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean at Reagan National.

So, first, talk about this ground stop and when potentially flights will resume.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good news here, Victor, is that we just learned that the ground stop here for flights coming into Reagan National Airport just ended, even though the main runway here at Reagan National, 119, is still closed and we don't anticipate it opening for at least some time.

The lion's share of cancellations here are about 83 percent all here at Reagan National Airport. It really topped the list, according to FlightAware, aware of cancellations nationwide.

Second on the list, BWI nearby. About half of all flights there have been canceled. Just look at the numbers overall, 2,900 cancellations just so far today, 16 percent of Southwest's schedule, 14 percent of the schedule at SkyWest. That's a regional airline that operates flights for Delta, American and United -- 14 percent of JetBlue's schedule.

Airlines and airports are urgently trying to clear ramps, taxiways, and runways. They say that that is a bit of good news as they come around the bend here. The other good news is that airlines have been notifying passengers, according to airline experts, ahead of time before they get to the airport that their flight has been canceled.


DAVID SLOTNICK, THE POINTS GUY: It's tough situation right now.

When it's weather especially, it's hard because that could happen last minute. With the COVID cancellations, at the very least, a lot of those are happening usually about a day in advance, sometimes sooner, but usually with enough time that you can try and figure things out before you're heading to the airport.


MUNTEAN: Overlapping issues here, Victor and Alisyn, not only the weather, but also those COVID cancellations and COVID-related staff shortages.

United Airlines says about half of all of its cancellations today were related to weather, the other half related to those staffing shortages. But we have seen a total of 18,000 cancellations since Christmas Eve. Not really done just yet.

CAMEROTA: Oh, gosh, passengers are going to have to continue to be patient.

Pete Muntean, thank you for all that.

All right, now to major developments on the COVID vaccine. The FDA just approved the Pfizer booster shot for ages 12 through 15.

BLACKWELL: It also shortened the time for when a booster can be received.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to walk through what the FDA is doing and why.

So, tell us about the new changes.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So these new changes are really important for all of us.

And the FDA now says don't wait six months after your second shot to get your booster. Instead, wait five months. And it's interesting. Israel, which has sort of set the pace for the rest of the world for boosters, they have also shorten the amount of time. They no longer wait six months.

So let's see what the FDA did about children 12 to 15 for boosters. They said that wait at least five months after the second shot and then children ages 12 to 15 can get boosters. That group got -- started getting shots back in May, so about five to 10 -- I'm sorry -- about five million 5 -- 12-to-15-year-olds are eligible now to get a booster.


And the FDA cited real-world data from Israel showing that about 6,300 children that age got a booster, and that it was very safe. They didn't see any safety concerns -- Victor, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Elizabeth, is the CDC already considering new guidance on the isolation period?

COHEN: Yes, they are.

And you know what? I forgot to add something in that last answer that I want to add, because it's so important; 39 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 15 have not even gotten a single shot. So while boosters are important, the children who haven't gotten any shots, 39 percent of 12-to-15-year-olds, they really need to be getting vaccinated, especially with this Omicron blizzard, as you so aptly put it before.

So now let's talk about isolation. So the CDC last week came out with isolation guidance, but today Dr. Tony Fauci telegraphed that there would be a change to this guidance, and it might involve needing to take a test to get out of isolation. So let's take a look at what the CDC -- what their guidelines are now.

So now they say five days of isolation, if you are -- you have COVID, but if you're asymptomatic or your symptoms are resolving, isolate yourself for five days, and then after those five days wear a mask, and that no test is necessary to end isolation.

So it'll be interesting to see if they now require a test. Also interesting to see if they come up with different rules for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated people. And, also, they might come up with different rules for people who are essential workers vs. those who are not. Health care workers already have a completely different set of guidelines.

And health care workers -- I mean, hospitals actually can on their own say, you know what, this is a crisis. We don't have enough people. We're getting rid of these guidelines altogether. It'll be interesting to see if they move in that direction for us other types of essential workers -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

Let's go to Florida now. Cases there have risen 948 percent over the last two weeks.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Miami.

Nine hundred and forty-eight percent, what is the governor saying about this?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, we just heard from the governor for the first time in several weeks, holding a press conference with what you're saying, those record-breaking numbers.

And he really focused on what he typically does, which is treatment, really focusing on monoclonal antibody treatments, demanding more from the federal government. That's what he said.

Now, what he really didn't spend too much talking about was this, what you see right behind me, these long, long lines and the demand for testing, given those record-breaking numbers. We are at one of the busiest sites in South Florida. And the wait here, workers will tell you, is anywhere from two to four hours, depending on what time of day you come.

Just in Miami-Dade, they administered more than 52,000 tests. And yet the governor is saying that he has no plans, at this point anyway, to pump more resources into testing sites like this. Rather, he believes the focus should be on prioritizing who is tested, saying let's talk about putting the elderly in testing before children, for example.

And speaking of children, I know a lot of parents are right now thinking about that back to school, given the end of the winter break for many. He stands by his stance, which he says there should not be any mask mandates in schools.

And he highlights a new law that was passed in November that bans that type of mandate in school, a new law that many school board members will tell you or have told me that they feel is tying their hands essentially in protecting children against COVID-19 -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Leyla Santiago for us there, thank you so much.

Let's turn to Washington now. And the January 6 Committee says it has significant testimony about what former President Trump was doing as his supporters attacked the Capitol. We have new details there.

CAMEROTA: And a poll finds that 34 percent of Americans think violent action against the government is sometimes justified.

What that means as we hit the one-year anniversary of the insurrection.



CAMEROTA: Lawmakers investigating the January 6 insurrection say they have firsthand testimony on what President Trump was doing as the violent attack unfolded.

CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles joins us now.

Ryan, tell us what these lawmakers are revealing about the testimony they have heard so far.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Alisyn, it seems to be pretty clear that the January 6 select committee is really keying in on what the former President Donald Trump did and did not do as the events were unfolding here at the Capitol.

They have talked about this 187 minutes of inaction from when those rioters first broke through into the Capitol Building, and then that video statement that the president put out at one point. And it's not just what he didn't do during that time frame, but it was the type of activity that he was engaging in that the committee at this point believes represents a serious dereliction of duty.

Listen to what Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, said on Sunday.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred.

Members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television to tell people to stop. We know Leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family. We know his daughter. We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So it's not just that the former president refused to do anything during that period of time.


It's also the fact that some of his most closest advisers, even his own children, were pleading with him to do something, and he chose not to, that has raised questions for the committee. Of course, the big question here, Victor and Alisyn, is, does that inaction rise to the level of criminal conduct?

That's something the committee is trying to understand. Liz Cheney hinting over the weekend that perhaps it doesn't, and that they need to change the laws to make it more clear that when an executive doesn't do what's expected of them, that there should be consequences -- Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and that's what Renato Mariotti, our legal expert, just said.

Meanwhile, Ryan, the Capitol physician says that COVID infection rates have increased to 13 percent. Does that mean lawmakers and does that impact the legislative session?

NOBLES: At this point, it hasn't specifically impacted the legislation -- legislative session, Alisyn, because the House is out this week. The Senate was expected to vote today, but they postponed their activities because of the severe weather here in Washington.

But what we're talking about here is the on-site testing that takes place every day in the Capitol. There's free testing available to anyone who works at the Capitol. That includes staff members, even those of us in the press corps.

And what they have noticed, the attending physician is saying that, prior to this week, the positivity rate was less than 1 percent. And then it jumped to more than 13 percent. And he largely blames the Omicron variant for that sharp rise in the number of positive cases.

Now, keep in mind, Victor and Alisyn, there's hardly been anybody in the Capitol for the past three weeks because of the holidays. There isn't expected to be a huge increase in the number of people in here until later in the week, as they gather for events surrounding the one-year anniversary of January 6, and then when they return to session next week.

Still, there's been a huge concern about the increase in these positive cases. One of the things the Capitol physician is recommending is that we all use these, these N95 masks, as opposed to cloth masks, when we're walking around the Capitol at all times and when we're in contact with people, because they are concerned about the spread of this variant -- Victor and Alisyn.

Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thank you so much. Let's bring it now "Washington Post" White House reporter and CNN

political analyst Seung Min Kim and CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, former Republican congressman.

Welcome to you both.

Seung Min, let me start with you.

"The Post" has out this new remarkable polling that shows -- a headline here, a third of respondents say that violence against the government is sometimes justified.


BLACKWELL: Twenty-three percent of Democrats agree with that, 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents.

I mean, for those who are trying to keep the parties, the country divided, they are succeeding. Just how much has changed or hasn't changed over the years since the insurrection?

KIM: Right, right. And these poll results -- the poll results are remarkable coming, obviously, on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection.

And I think what's really interesting about this poll in particular is that, first of all, it's the largest percentage of people who felt this way, that violence is justified, in years of polling on this question, which is what something -- what "The Washington Post" found.

And I think the other really interesting part about this poll as well is what you kind of alluded to, Victor, that there is this -- for the first time, there really is the sharp partisan divide, a noticeable partisan divide in people who do believe violence against the government is sometimes justified, with Republicans being more likely than Democrats to think that way.

So, again, these are really kind of, frankly, alarming results about the sentiments of the public. And, obviously, coming on the heels of -- or coming just ahead of the anniversary of the insurrection, it just really kind of underscores a really tense moment in our politics, especially as the leader of the Republican Party, the former president, is continuing to spread these lies that fueled this ride on the Capitol almost a year ago.

CAMEROTA: But, Charlie, isn't there another way to look at those numbers, which is that -- let's look at this scenario.

Let's say that President Trump again runs in 2024. And, this time, he again tries to steal the election, but this time his cronies in battleground states help him go along with it. Then wouldn't Democrats -- maybe the number would go up with Democrats if they felt that that's not democracy, obviously, stealing an election and installing a president who's more like an autocrat.

Then maybe they would feel that violence was justified. I mean, what do you see in these numbers between Democrats and Republicans and independents?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, as Seung Min mentioned, I think these are alarming numbers that 40 percent of Republicans, nearly 25 percent of Democrats think that violence against the government is OK.

We saw obviously what happened last year with the insurrection, the attack on Congress to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, a horrible, despicable act against the government. The summer of 2020, we saw attacks on law enforcement officers, police stations. And, again, that's an attack on local government in many respects.


So I think this is disturbing. And to the extent in 2024 this -- I always worry that the shoe can be on the other foot, that, if for some reason, Democrats lose and they feel that the that the election was stolen, might they resort to the same tactics? I hope not.

But it's something we have to be concerned about because so many people don't believe that our democratic process is fair, and Donald Trump has been saying it's been rigged for a very long time. And, sadly, a lot of people now believe him.

But if the other side does the same thing, we could expect more problems going forward.

BLACKWELL: Congressman, another finding from this poll, 72 percent of Republicans say that the former president bears just some or no responsibility for the violence on January 6.

Just as a reminder, I want you to hear what the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said in the days after the attack.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.


BLACKWELL: From your perspective, who's following whom here?

Did he shift because of public sentiment? Or are they all following, I guess, the leaders in Congress, who are just falling in line with President Trump?

DENT: Well, I think Kevin McCarthy had it right in that statement.

There was no question that the former president bears a lot of responsibility for what happened that day. We all saw what happened. He was running his mouth for weeks after the election that it was stolen. And then he sicced a violent mob the day of. He basically told them, I'm going to fight like hell, and sicced the mob on the Capitol. So, yes, Donald Trump bears a lot of responsibility for what happened

on January 6, no ifs, ands, or buts. And I think what's happened is that, in the minds of many people, that that event is behind us. They have moved on. And many are trying to whitewash what happened that day or rewrite the narrative that it really wasn't quite as bad as it appeared, that we shouldn't believe our eyes and ears.

So I think that's a big part of what's happened, that time has intervened, and that many people now feel that it was just not as quite a consequential event as it was at the time. And it was a very consequential event, by any measure.



I mean, and, by the way, I'm not talking about if people who lose in 2024 are sore losers, like we're seeing currently, and think that their guy should have won. I'm talking about, if it's stolen, Seung Min.

And that brings us -- what will happen? What will fair-minded, free people want to do if this time the election is successfully stolen in 2024? That brings us to the voting rights and whether or not Congress and President Biden are actually going to focus on voting rights to ensure that it can't be stolen and that cronies can't throw an election for their guy.

And so there's this new reporting that Chuck Schumer is planning to -- I will read you the letter that he sent to colleagues in a dear colleague letter. "The Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy, free and fair elections."

What's the plan, Seung Min?

KIM: Right.

And what's so interesting about that letter from Chuck Schumer this morning is that he is really explicitly tying the January 6 insurrection to voting rights, which has been such a big priority for the Democratic Party. And you have seen some shifts from people like President Biden, who said before the break that he is open to some sort of a filibuster carve-out, if that's what it takes to advance voting rights.

Now, we do expect any push to change the rules in the Senate to allow a voting rights bill to pass to fail because of opposition from at least two Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

But I think just Democrats really leaning into voting -- the voting rights issue as it relates to the insurrection and what fueled the insurrection is really interesting. Now, these are federal changes. And what's really kind of noteworthy about what's going on in the Republican Party is that a lot of changes, proposed changes that Republicans are pushing are coming on the local level, for example, replacing members of county boards of canvassers that certify elections.

You have a lot of Trump allies running in these key local races that deal with election results. And, obviously, that's not something that's going to get resolved at a federal level and something that we should be watching very closely.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

OK, Seung Min Kim, Charlie Dent, thank you both.

DENT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We have a quick programming note.

Join CNN for an unprecedented gathering of police, lawmakers and leaders on the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol. Live from the Capitol, "January 6: One Year Later" airs Thursday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Twitter has banned the personal account of Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading COVID misinformation. But her congressional account is active. What Republican leadership is saying about this next.


And earlier today, the FDA approved a third vaccine dose for kids aged 12 to 15 in the U.S., but there are some people already getting their fourth or even fifth shots, with no certainty about the safety or effectiveness of those extra doses.

What that means and where that's happening.